Coast: La Haule

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Coast:

La Haule to First Tower


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This article by Doug Ford, a respected authority on Jersey's maritime history, was part of his Coast series for the Jersey Evening Post, and was first published in 2015


Road building

From La Haule the shoreline sweeps in a great arc around to St Helier, three miles away on the eastern side of the Bay. Despite being within sight of each other, there was no road link until General Don managed to get a road built, funded by a lottery and a public subscription to which he contributed £100 – this is now St Aubin’s Inner Road.

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The road was completed in December 1809 and opened to the public in the following year. Before this, people either took small boats or walked over the beach, depending on the state of tide. In November 1788 a horse-drawn omnibus service was introduced between the Swift Tavern, St Aubin and the Bunch of Grapes in Water Lane (at the bottom of Wellington Hill), St Helier. The fare was 10 sous and the service ran every Saturday.

Work on Victoria Avenue, which was built on the reclaimed sandy ground inside the St Helier to St Aubin railway track, began about 1893 and the single carriageway road was finally opened in 1897 in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In the course of its building, many of the old fortifications were destroyed and new access arrangements had to be made for getting vehicles on and off the beach.

The fields alongside the road, originally sand dunes used for rough grazing, were known as Les Mielles; set behind them is Mon Plaisir, built about 1820 by Philip Marett from La Haule Manor. The money used to construct fine buildings such as this usually came from the North Atlantic cod trade, and so they were known as ‘cod houses’.

In the winter of 1846/1847 the poor of the Island, who were largely based in St Helier, were being badly affected by seasonal unemployment and rising prices caused by potato blight and a poor wheat harvest. In an attempt to alleviate the problem, the States set men to work improving the road between First Tower and St Aubin for 2s per day.

The slipway before the Beaumont coastal tower marks the St Brelade/St Peter boundary. St Brelade is the only parish in the island with only one parochial neighbour and St Peter is the only parish with two coastlines.

Beaumont

The Beaumont, or Third Tower, is one of the last Conway towers to be built in the island. It was probably built in 1794 on the site of an early gun position - the Vaull Battery – and like the others it had an 18-pounder carronade mounted on the roof. The original first-floor access has been kept, and a later door was installed at the ground floor level to allow access for storage. The War Department sold this tower and 1,050 square metres of land to the States of Jersey in July 1922 for £300.

During the Second World War, the Germans armed the tower with a French Hotchkiss anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on the roof.

Next to the tower Thomas Hayley had a shipyard. It was from here that the 786-ton ship Percy Douglas was completed and launched in 1861. It was originally started in 1856 by Edward Allen of St Aubin, but when he was declared bankrupt in 1859, Hayley was his main creditor and was awarded the half-completed hull.

In the Middle Ages this area of Beaumont was probably a tidal inlet – in 1611/12, the English cartographer, John Speed, published a map of Jersey in his book The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine which shows an inlet here. Silted over, it is now Goose Green Marsh, or Le Marais de St Pierre. A stream, Le Douet de Canard, runs through the marsh and formed the parish boundary with St Lawrence.

Bel Royal

A painting by De La Taste of a Militia review on the beach at Bel Royal

Further along the beach lies Bel Royal, whose name suggests links with Charles II and his time in exile here during the English Civil War. Bel comes from the Norse word for farmyard. The building known as Maison Charles is supposed to be from where the newly proclaimed king reviewed the island militia in 1649. This was the same occasion during which he knighted Sir George Carteret, the Royalist Governor.[1]

In 1780 the Janvrin family had a 280-ton ship built here, which they named after their Guernsey-based partner Elisha Tupper. It was said that it was built using oak felled on their own land in the parish.

The slipway here is relatively recent. Its datestone shows it was only completed in 1904. Throughout the 19th century the predominant feature here was the Conway Tower - Bel Royal Tower or Second Tower, which, like its neighbour at Beaumont, was most likely built in 1794. We can be much more accurate as to when it disappeared for, on 7 January 1943, it was demolished by the Germans as part of their own fortification building scheme.

In the 1830s a windmill was built a few yards to the north east. Obviously business was thriving, because by the 1860s a tall brick chimney and an engine and boiler house were added when the miller turned to steam power. The premises rejoiced in the name of the Bel Royal Wind and Steam Mill. The end of the venture came suddenly in 1886 when the mill’s owner Philip Gosset, the Treasurer of the States, who was also the manager of the Jersey Banking Company, was heavily involved in the island bank crash. Emile Voisin bought the mill and demolished it in order to build the terrace of houses, which can still be seen.

During a ferocious gale in the early hours of 26 January 1884 the Le Boutillier Brothers' brigantine GDT ran aground just out from St Matthew’s. Over the next two days she was rocked so much that she ended up burying herself in the sand. She remained there for exactly a month while she was lightened, by having her cargo unloaded and her stores, sails and yard-arms taken ashore and stored. Hundreds of islanders went to Millbrook to watch the spectacle before P Vautier and Son were final able to free her, float her off and tow her to St Helier.

At the time the curious were able to catch a train from Town and get off at Millbrook Station by Rue de Galet (galet means shingle)

Just before Rue de Galet there is a narrow lane called Charrière Félard – this was the cart track that led from the bottom of Mont Félard to the beach. Charrière means cart track and Félard was a surname noted in the 13th and 14th centuries. When the seawall was finally constructed here in the late 19th century, a slipway directly opposite Charrière Félard gave access to the beach, but it was blocked up during the Occupation by the Germans and never reopened.

Next to Charrière Felard was the St Lawrence Volunteer Redoubt. First mentioned by Jean Chevalier in 1646, it was remodeled as a square fort fitted with five 24-pounder guns in 1787. The old guardhouse was replaced by a two-room barracks for one officer and 20 soldiers and a powder magazine. Following Waterloo it was disarmed, but the War Department held on to it until 1905 when it was sold by public auction.

Between Rue de Galet and First Tower there were other batteries such as St Croix Battery, with its three 6-pounders in 1787, replaced by two 18-pounder guns in 1814, and Simonet Battery in the centre of the bay, which housed two 24- pounders during the French Revolution to protect what was known as the Men of Wars Ground in the centre of the Bay.

These were of no use whatsoever when the greatest of enemies came to attack the naval ships anchored there on 9 November 1800 – hurricane force winds. Of the seven Royal Navy vessels anchored here, four were driven ashore and one, HMS Havick was a total loss. All 121 men in her crew were saved. Three merchant ships were also wrecked in the bay during the same storm.

Further reading

Notes and references

  1. The Royal part of the name is now generally accepted as having nothing to do with Charles II, but to refer to a yard where the king's cannon was stored. Suggestions elsewhere that Charles stayed at Maison Charles are also wide of the mark, although it is possible that he was a daytime visitor for the militia review – Editor
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